“The Mask of Sanity” (The Permanent Press), by Jacob M. Appel
Dr. Jeremy Balint is a man who has it all. He’s a respected community leader, a cardiologist with a thriving practice and a family man with a beautiful wife and two lovely young daughters. But when he discovers that his wife is having an affair with one of his colleagues, he begins methodically planning to take the man’s life.
Balint pretends the colleague is his best friend and feigns ignorance of his wife’s infidelity. To avoid any hint that he has a motive for murder, he allows the affair to continue for months.
He studies murder cases, both real and fictional, to learn how to avoid mistakes, always careful to leave no trace that could lead back to him.
Finally, he decides that the best way to avoid being caught is to make it appear that the murder he is planning is just one in a series of random attacks by a deranged serial killer — which means he has to kill six or seven times.
As Balint begins his rampage, draping each victim with a green ribbon as the killer’s “signature,” he is somewhat surprised to discover that he can bash and strangle without remorse.
That’s the premise of “The Mask of Sanity,” a novel that is both a suspenseful yarn and a chilling portrait of the mind of a high-functioning sociopath.
The author, Jacob M. Appel, knows his subject well. He is a physician, an attorney and a former Ivy League professor who has made a study of sociopaths. And his crisp, muscular prose comes as no surprise from a prolific short story writer who has been shortlisted for the O’Henry Award and whose first novel, “The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up,” won the Dundee International Book Prize in 2012.